Marxism was an ideology developed in the XIX century by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. The ideology was created from a basis, which he received from the previous thinkers of Europe.

G.W.F. Hegel: Philosopher, one of the main figures of a movement called German Idealism. Marx learned from Hegel Dialectics. This was a way to understand history, and defended that through time antagonisms were given, that is, ideas that are against each other. From one situation would rise his antagonist, and from this clash, a new society.

Example of the dialectic method: In feudalism there was a society controlled by nobles and priests, but in the cities, bourgeoisie rose. These two forces had opposite interests and from their clash, capitalism and the industrial society of the XIX century emerged. Karl Marx said that from this capitalist society, following the dialectical movement, the proletarians would rise and obtain power, leading the world to communism.

British political economy (liberalism): Karl Marx learned economics reading the works of liberals like David Ricardo, and used them to explain the social environment. From his point of view, history and society should be understood through economics.

Feuerbach: From Feuerbach he learned materialism. In Germany, since Kant or Hegel idealism was developed, a movement that tried to understand the world from the conscience, the subject or the spirits. Notions that are not in the real world we experiment. As a consequence, Marx defended the explanation of the world through the evidence, through the real world.

-.We have said that Marx learned Dialectics from Hegel, and that Hegel was an Idealist. What Karl Marx did was to take this method, and apply it in a materialist way.

Utopian Socialism: Friedrich Engels liked the revolutionary critique that people like Owen, Saint-Simon and Fourier did, even though he criticized the lack of reality of their propositions. 


The surplus value: Was the basis of the social critique. According to Marx’s theory, surplus value is equal to the new value created by workers in excess of their own labor-cost, which is appropriated by the capitalist as profit when products are sold.

Brief example of the surplus value: Let’s say that an employer employees 5 workers. These 5 workers will make every day 50 t-shirts. For the making of the t-shirt, cotton will be bought at 100$. The t-shirts will be sold for 1000 $. The 5 employees will receive, each one, a salary of 100$ a day.

If the employees take cotton at 100$, and make t-shirts that are worth 1000$, they have produced a wealth of 900$. Even though they have produced a wealth of 900$, the salary of the workers is of 500$. The 400$ that are left, and obtained by the employer, is the surplus value.

    Karl Marx made an analysis of history where he observed that since the Neolithic, there has been a theft of the surplus value.

  • Pre-history: the production is so low that there is no possibility of stealing the surplus value

  • Slave-owner society: the slaves produces the wealth and the citizens of Greece or the patrician of Rome steals the surplus value

  • Feudalism: the peasant produces the wealth and the noble landlord steals the surplus value

  • Capitalism: the factory worker produces the wealth and the industrial bourgeoisie steals the surplus value

    What Karl Marx tried, was to end with this circumstance. For that, the main objectives are synthesized in works like The Communist Manifesto. He said that the private property within capitalism is part of the problem, because the factory, and the wealth produced, becomes the ownership of the bourgeoisie. One of the most famous solutions he gave, was the common property of the means of production. That is, since the proletarian is the one that produces the wealth in the factory, the factory and his wealth should belong to them.

NEW SOCIAL MOVEMENTS(62). The difficult working conditions under the industrial system and the poverty of the workers caused social unrest.

Workers’ associations

The first workers to protest against industrialisation were the Luddites. The Luddite movement started in England in the early 19th century. It consisted of the violent destruction of machinery in the belief that it was responsible for low wages and unemployment. Some workers started to realise the need to form  their own associations to defend their interests. The first organisations were relief societies, which acted as resistance groups and helped workers in the event of illness or unemployment. These societies organised the first strikes and created contingency funds. The repeal of the laws prohibiting workers associations in England in 1824 led to the creation of the first official trade unions, which united workers in the same field, such as the Union of Spinners. The Grand National Consolidated Trades Union, which brought together different types of workers, Was  founded in 1834. Its first tasks were to defend the right of association, to reduce the working day, to improve wages and to regulate child labour.

The new social solutions

In the new industrial society, a number of thinkers spoke out against the injustices created by capitalism and proposed new models of social organisation.

•The utopian socialists (Saint-Simon, Proudhon and Fourier) were the first to suggest that private property was the main cause of inequalities and to propose forms of collective ownership.

•In the mid-19th century, some thinkers advocated the need for a revolution to end capitalism and build a new egalitarian society. These ideas gave rise to two major revolutionary movements: Marxism and anarchism.

•The Catholic Church was concerned about the condition of the working classes and social inequality.  In 1890, Pope Leo Xlll issued his encyclical Rerum Novarum, which proposed the need to improve the living conditions of workers by enacting social laws.


James Watt (1736-1819) was born in Scotland. When he was 14 years old, he began to study mathematics and help out in his father’s workshop, where he learnt how to make tools. In 1764, he was asked to repair a Newcomen steam engine. While repairing the machine, he realised that it was inefficient because of the amount of steam it wasted, so he started to look for ways to improve it. He therefore created a much more efficient machine, which became the driving force behind industry and transport. His relationship with Matthew Boulton, who manufactured metal prod ts, allowed him to successfully market the invention.